Wien, 24. December 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "Possibly a piece in the peace process mosaic"

24.12.2006

Foreign Minister on meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas

Vienna, 24 December 2006 - "The meeting between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas may constitute a piece in the mosaic of patient endeavour aimed at reviving the deadlocked peace process. The resumption of direct dialogue is a sign of hope for the entire region. It is also clear that there will be criticism from various sides and it is precisely for this reason that this personal meeting is a courageous and forward-looking step," commented Foreign Minister Plassnik on yesterday’s meeting in Jerusalem between Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.

"This confirms a renewed willingness for cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians which could already be felt during my recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories," affirmed Plassnik, referring to her visit to the region at the beginning of this month when she also met with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas.

"Releasing a portion of Palestinian tax revenues as well as certain measures designed to facilitate passenger traffic are in line with an ongoing demand by the EU. They are the first important measures aimed at building confidence. Now they have to be built upon, and the readiness to negotiate has to be strengthened on both sides. Both Palestinians and Israelis want to see concrete and tangible results of cooperation as soon as possible," continued Plassnik. The Foreign Minister referred to the committees to be set up in the fields of security, finance and prisoners which are to commence work soon. "The tangible improvement of living conditions must have priority," stated Plassnik.

"Many more pieces are required in this mosaic for real progress to be made. The road to peace may be long, but this first high-ranking meeting in a long time between Israel and the Palestinians is an opportunity for a new start of the political process. Now all sides have to undertake every effort and proactively work on the reconstruction of a reliable basis for dialogue and confidence in order to bring the Middle East closer to a peace solution. Austria and the EU will continue to provide long-term support to any such endeavour," concluded Foreign Minister Plassnik.

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